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film new releases: This one will really get your heart pumping - it may just be the best automobile action movie ever made.

Byline: Jonathan Ross

The Fast And The Furious

(15, 107mins)

The Martins (15, 86mins)

Battle Royale (18, 114mins)

Here's one that will wake you up. The Fast And The Furious is one of those movies that hits the ground running and never lets up. The plot itself is flimsy and forgettable - undercover cop must befriend a group of maverick streetracers in order to bust a gang of high-speed truck hijackers.

Appropriately enough, it's not where you're going with this one but how you get there and, with that in mind, this may just be the best automobile action movie ever made.

The street racing king and one of the prime suspects for the truck thefts is Dominic Toretto, played by bald muscle-man Vin Diesel, last seen stealing the show in the low-budget shocker Pitch Black. During the day he works with his oddly appealing crew of misfits to refit cars, but it's at night that they really live, racing high-speed fuel-injected road rockets on the streets of LA.

Promotion-hungry cop Brian, played by the good looking but bland Paul Walker, manages to latch on to the group, although they're hardly the friendliest bunch of grease monkeys. On the road to busting the gang, young Brian not only gets a little bit hooked on the speed rush that keeps the gang on the wrong side of the law, he also falls for Toretto's beautiful sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) and also bonds, big time, with Toretto and his crew. So when push comes to shove, will he do the right thing by his new buddies or turn them all in?

It's not much of a storyline and we've definitely seen its like before. But, with director Rob Cohen at the helm, this big old beast really zips along. From the breathtaking start to the noisy, and dazzling final scene, this film more then makes up in style for what it lacks in substance.

Superb photography, fabulously pacey editing, a thumping soundtrack and the presence of Big Vin, (the next big action star, you mark my words) turn this from a potential turkey into a must see.

It's not a movie you'll cherish and want to tell the grandkids about, but it will get your pulse thumping and your foot stamping on that imaginary brake pedal. I loved it. Bring on the sequel.

It's easy to get typecast in the movies, especially for comedians, and I think a lot of people had written Lee Evans off before he really got started as a one-trick pony - his particular trick being old-school slapstick with a modern twist. But as Lee proves in The Martins, a new British comedy which packs a pretty hefty dramatic wallop as well, he has a lot more to offer then just falling over and gurning. In fact, his performance here is something of a revelation.

At first meeting you might think his character - Robert Martin - is a complete tosspot, but he kind of grows on you. Robert constantly enters competitions to try and win a better standard of living for his family, which includes Kathy Burke as his wife Angie.

Permanently down on his luck, Robert clings to dreams and hopes for lucky breaks, but when he's let down by a local newspaper after convincing himself that he's won their dream holiday competition, something snaps and he goes on a mini-rampage.

Along the way he picks up an ill-fitting Armani suit, re-claims the holiday he thought he'd won, and falls out with most of his family. There are moments of genuine bleakness and distress in this film which means it's a far cry from most of the lacklustre British comedies which have been trotted out this summer.

Whereas High Heels And Low Lifes or The Parole Officer rarely lift themselves above the level of mediocre sitcoms, The Martins actually has something to say. Funny, dark, thoroughly original and one not to miss.

As a kid, I hated school trips. Sleeping in a drafty tent with only spam fritters to look forward to, they weren't much fun. But compared to the outing that the schoolkids in Battle Royale get taken on, mine were quite literally a picnic.

Battle Royale is a Japanese movie with subtitles - there, that's the bad news - but if you want to catch a wildly original and super-cool slice of entertainment before it gets remade and ruined by the Americans, then I suggest you try hard not to miss it. The brilliantly simple premise is a bit on the wild side, but once you buy into the movie it really delivers the goods.

Battle Royale is the name of a new act passed by the Japanese Government to, in essence, remind the nations increasingly disrespectful and lazy teens just exactly who's in charge. At random, one class of high school kids have been selected and drugged on their way to a school field trip. When they come to, they discover that they are to take part in a fight to the death from which only one of them can emerge alive.

Around their necks are metal collars - tracking devices which can also kill the wearer if they refuse to join in - as we see in a graphic illustration. So the 40 students must now kill or be killed while their former teacher looks on.

There are terrific performances all round, especially from cult star Beat Takeshi as the disgruntled class leader. Violent, gory, occasionally over the top, it's a wildly imaginative example of just what can be achieved in a teen movie.

CAPTION(S):

GUN LAW: Kou Shibasaki in Battle Royale; LIFT OFF: The street racers power through LA in The Fast And The Furious as gang leader Vin Diesel gets to grips with a special friend
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 14, 2001
Words:959
Previous Article:It isn't rock 'n' roll ...but we like it; Nice lads Travis are never going to win any awards for outrageous rockstar antics.
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